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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

VOIP SUPER SERVICE SLAYS PHONE-BILLS

As they say, it pays to shop around. It also pays to check and check on what you are told. For a long time the only access to the Internet available where I am was dialup, until by the grace of God ADSL broadband was made available in late 2012, about three years ahead of schedule. But when I investigated VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol--which means running your landline phone services over the Internet instead of on the traditional hardware, whilst retaining the same telephone number/s) I was told by what seemed a knowledgeable provider that ADSL was not fast enough. VDSL was needed. Which ruled out VOIP for me, because Chorus has not provided VDSL.

But when I refused to accept what that provider had told me and did some deeper research on Google I found a discussion site that seemed to prove it wrong. It also pointed to the cheapest VOIP provider in New Zealand: 2Talk. The discussion did put question-marks over 2Talk's service, but as one very satisfied person said, 'If it works you don't need support.' And in practice I found the support to be excellent.

I called 2Talk, and after waiting on hold for a very long time found out that ADSL is fast enough to drive VOIP, and helped by the helpful salesman I determined the best package for my needs. The prices were amazingly low, so if I swapped from Telecom I would save a lot, yet at the same time I would as a normal part of the deal be getting a huge range of services both basic and luxurious that Telecom cannot provide (or if it can it has never offered them to me).

2Talk referred me to one of its agents BanxSystems, a company that to my delight manifested superlative service, even in passing offering me other services, and far more capacity at far lower prices than other providers--such as ten times the storage capacity: a gigabyte instead of 100MB.

Even better they initiated all the switching-over for me while I was on the phone, and the VOIP hardware, a good British machine, was couriered to me the morning after I clicked on agreement. As the Courier Post lady said, 'You remember people like that.' You do indeed, and you keep dealing with them. When the transfer of the numbers actually happened it was a simple, smooth, error-free, worry-free change. Banx linked into my computer and did all the configuration for me, guided me quickly and professionally through a few queries, and I was away.

In these days when service is often so poor, or even non-existent, to it is a joy to deal with a company that gives excellent service, and even goes far beyond the extra mile. Take a bow Banx :-) You understand the basic of business: Look after your customers and the bottom line will look after itself; look after your bottom line and sooner or later your customers will look somewhere else.

Also take a highly-deserved bow Ben at 2Talk (a very service-oriented leader on their help-desk), because when 2Talk and Banx ran into a roadblock created by that band of knave$ called Choru$ (whose actions constantly show that it cares about money not people), he worked out a way round it--and thus provided what Chorus had refused to provide, despite the promises it had made years ago. Without his sterling efforts my transfer to VOIP could not have happened.

(The only broadband we can get in Rocky Bay is ADSL1, the slowest form of DSL. Chorus said years ago that its bottom line in New Zealand would be ADSL2, so no one should be on less, and by now most New Zealanders should be on VDSL or fibre. The 'roadblock' was that 2Talk provides its VOIP service only on ADSL2, but with a bend and tweak, some lateral thinking via a sister company and willing effort it can get past that and use ADSL1, and it did.)

On top of all that I was delighted to find that the performance of the broadband line was much better with 2Talk. Under Telecom the download speed was about 5.5Mbps on SpeedTest. But with 2Talk the test averages generally hovers round 7Mbps, plus or minus 0.1Mbps, with a best so far of 7.15Mbps, which is about the fastest you can expect from ADSL1. I have not seen it go below 6.5Mbps during the test. Not brilliant by international or even national standards, thanks to Chorus, but the best to be expected in the present technical circumstances.


As if that were not enough you get an amazing level of comprehensive, detailed control over your line/s via 2Talk's software, as well as options on your landline not available on the Waiheke exchange, such as Caller ID--all bundled at no extra charge. In fact, Caller ID is so clever that when a call is coming in it looks up the number in the White Pages and tells you who is calling. You also get as part of the bundle such things as hold music (the music of your choice), blacklisted numbers (so that people you do not want calling you can never get through), sophisticated forwarding options, multiple numbers on your one physical line with different answerphone messages for each, conference calls, all conversations recorded in full if you wish, call-history, a list of missed calls, and so on--the juicy list is long.

One small aspect of having a voip phone that I find a constant boon is having such wide-ranging and precise control over the incoming volume at my fingertips, because it enables me to shut down to a whisper the crass choices for on-hold 'music' made by the musically-challenged or damp down a loud voice or PABX whose output is too high.

My move to VOIP can be summed up by something the Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Auckland said to me many years ago when he was exulting over a new artificial-intelligence computer system that his department had just had donated: 'It's like having a Rolls-Royce when you only had a bicycle before.' I would never want to go back. I would upgrade his comment: 'It's like being beamed up from your bicycle to the Starship Enterprise.'

When you move to VOIP you do not have to chuck out your old analogue phones. You can use them as cheap, dumb extensions on your VOIP system. To do that you get an ATA converter (such as the inexpensive CISCO SPA122) from PB Tech (which is the best place to buy hardware and software in Auckland) and plug your old phones into it.

The $$$ bottom line? There are some one-off costs to set up VOIP--a phone, an ATA converter if you get one, and the cost of transferring your phone number and setting it up ($50)--but the savings every month will compensate for that, and the Rolls-Royce/Enterprise is a joy to use.

...

Footnote: It is amazing, given all the above, that Telecom (now calling itself Shark--whoops, Spark--for some peculiar reason known only to the snottiest little green men on Alpha Centauri's third rock) does not have a VOIP offering. Its staff think it will have one, sometime, but it does not have one now. How very odd! If it did it could be making a lot more money from the same number of lines, because if people now have, say, three physical lines, one for voice, one for the Internet and one for fax, they could put all three on one VOIP line, then Telecom could sell the other two physical lines to two other VOIP customers. Instead it is letting 2Talk and Banx and others walk away with its customers. And it is highly unlikely that it will ever get them back. It keeps blinding itself to the fact that it created and continues to create customers for everyone else. Every single customer with some other supplier is one that it created. It needs to change its mindset, not its name. Changing its name will only make things worse, because there is a lot of brand-loyalty attached to 'Telecom.'